“There are some things a man just can’t ride around.”
A bounty hunter (Randolph Scott) seeking his wife’s killer (Lee Van Cleef) uses the killer’s brother (James Best) as bait.
Response to Peary’s Review:
This “powerful, provocative” western by Budd Boetticher manages to explore several important themes within the space of just 73 minutes. As in many of the other Boetticher/Scott films, Scott’s character is once again hell-bent on seeking vengeance for his wife’s death. But his story is balanced by that of two outlaws — one (Pernell Roberts) calculating, the other (James Coburn) gullible — who have competing plans for the killer’s murderous brother: by bringing him in themselves, they can receive total amnesty for their previous crimes. Since the true villain of the film (Van Cleef) is rarely on-screen, the primary interactions thus take place between Scott, Roberts, and a buxomy young widow (Karen Steele) they pick up along the way, who represents the possibility of a new life for Roberts.
Unfortunately, despite its unique take on Western themes, Ride Lonesome is still very much a product of its time — as referenced in the following exchange about Steele, which reveals antiquated notions about what exactly women “need”:
Coburn: I wonder what she’ll do now she’s out a man?
Roberts: Find another.
Coburn: Well, she loved that fella hard enough… She’d stay a widow, wouldn’t she?
Roberts: Ain’t the kind — not her…. She’s the kind that’s got a need — a deep, lonely need only a man can get at…
In addition, I’m puzzled by screenwriter Burt Kennedy’s decision to include a skirmish with local Indians, since it does nothing to further the plot. However, overall this remains a provocative western by a master director, and is certainly worth a look.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Pernell Roberts and James Coburn (in his screen debut) as the opportunistic outlaws
- The playful yet sober rapport between Roberts and Scott
- Beautiful landscapes
Yes; this is one of the best known of the Boetticher/Scott films, and should be seen by every film fanatic.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)